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Contentions

Russian Bare

My outrage over Beijing’s cruel treatment of dissidents will just have to wait for another day. I had promised contentions I would write about the release of Yang Jianli and his thoughts about the inevitability of democracy in China.

That’s a worthy topic to be sure. But this is August, the silly season, and it’s more fun to discuss the photos—which some interpret as making use of gay iconography—that President Vladimir Putin just posted on his website. Now we know that when he’s not sending Russian bombers on Soviet-era patrols or claiming the North Pole for Moscow, Vladimir Putin poses bare-chested in a cowboy hat and cargo pants with his fishing rod at a remarkably suggestive angle. (Did I mention his clearly defined abs, flexed biceps, and well-defined pecs? The hearts of women and men alike were fluttering all across the ten time zones of Mother Russia.)

Of course, the exhibitionism of Putin contrasts with the indignation of Nicolas Sarkozy, on display earlier this month. Photographers snapped the French leader, wearing only swimming trunks, as he vacationed in New Hampshire. He actually climbed aboard the photographers’ boat and shouted at them. That’s understandable, because Sarkozy, although trim, is evidently not as chiseled as his Russian counterpart.

Is American political leadership being left behind in the male physique department? Perhaps not. George W. Bush is an exercise fanatic, for one thing. And Putin, for all his Spetsnaz training, is still not as buff as Barack Obama, who was photographed coming out of the Hawaiian surf on New Year’s Day. Some suspect that the Kremlin’s leader was attempting, in publishing these photos, to make a statement about the health of his nation. But, it looks like Russia still takes a backseat to the Land of Lincoln as far as the buffness of its leaders is concerned.



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